The Evolution of Parking

How automated systems are changing the future of parking with lowered emissions, space savings, user safety, and ROI
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Sponsored by Westfalia Technologies, Inc.
By Kathy Price-Robinson

Additionally, as users do not enter the garage, developers can achieve lower upfront ventilation equipment costs due to the reduced requirement of only two air changes per hour, as opposed to the four to six changes per hour required in a typical parking garage.

And because the users won’t be able to enter or see what’s going on within the system, developers don’t need to put as much emphasis on the parking areas through passenger lifts and stairwells or the overall finish of the garage. These add up to cost savings that go directly back to the project’s budget.

Automated parking garages typically run in a lights-out environment so electricity usage is drastically reduced and lighting costs are minimal. This savings helps offset the cost of the electricity needed to operate the parking system’s equipment.

Since automated parking facilities require less building space, developers can save on construction costs through reduced excavation, reduced construction time, and lower land costs.

While cost savings over traditional parking garages is important when evaluating an automated garage for a project, possibly the most important factor is the potential added value an automated parking garage can provide to a development. Reducing the volume of parking by approximately 50 percent with an automated garage allows developers to utilize the space gained for uses that are more profitable, such as housing or retail space.

Operating Cost Savings

The whole- life or life-cycle cost (LCC) savings is something that is often overlooked when developers are considering an automated parking garage for their developments. There can be substantial LCC savings when compared to conventional parking—although there will also be differences in the potential LCC savings between different automated systems. One study in the National Parking Association’s Parking Magazine showed potential savings in operating costs of an automated parking garage compared with a conventional garage of over 50 percent.4

A large potential saving is in valets or operator salaries, insurance, HR, hiring, and benefits costs, as they are typically not required in an automated garage.

Lower ventilation costs are achievable due to the reduced requirement of only two air changes per hour for automated parking systems. This is according to the NFPA 88A-2019: Standard for Parking Structures. This standard covers the construction and protection of, as well as the control of hazards within, open and enclosed parking structures, including automated-type parking structures, other than those within one- and two-family dwellings.

As there are no or very few lights required during normal system operation, lighting costs are negligible, which can also provide significant cost savings. Reduced insurance premiums are also achievable due to cars being stored within a locked garage with no access to users or unauthorized personnel, making it virtually impossible to vandalize or steal from the cars stored within the garage.

Although preventative maintenance plans are recommended for the equipment, ongoing maintenance costs are reduced because there is no parking area to maintain for users. And there are no consumer lifts to maintain.

Finally, developers can also see savings through the accelerated depreciation of the automated parking system equipment capital cost; the asset can be depreciated much quicker than a conventional garage.

Specifying an Automated Parking System

There’s no doubt that an automated parking system is very complex. Specifiers would be wise to choose a turnkey vendor that can guide the process from conception to ongoing operation. A partner who controls the entire process ensures a better outcome than outsourcing various elements to the lowest bidder.

Photo courtesy of Westfalia Logistics Solutions Europe

Because of the complex nature of automated parking garages, the designer, owner, developer, or operator should consult with an experienced and successful vendor.

Initial discussions with an APS vendor should include a data analysis to show potential areas of savings when compared to conventional parking. This is especially important if such numbers will factor into whether or not such a system will be considered.

The first determination is how much space is needed for the number of parking slots necessary. Because so many of the benefits of automated parking systems arise from space savings, the design of the system’s space requires a highly experienced expert.

The mechanical equipment for these systems is sophisticated. The equipment may seem expensive on first inspection until it’s compared with all the cost savings and added value achieved by using an APS.

As important as the machinery is the software to run it. Again, engaging a vendor with a track record of installing glitch-free software is recommended. Ask for references and visit past installations if possible for a hands-on experience of such a system.

Maintenance on equipment and the software should ideally be performed by the same vendor that designed the system, sold the equipment and software, and did the installation. In this way, deep inside knowledge of the system and ongoing support will be in place, including technicians available around the clock.


With the United States anticipating at least 293.6 million motor vehicles on the road by 2021, providing adequate parking will continue to be a challenge, even with the advent of car sharing schemes and autonomous vehicles. But through automation, developers across all industries can confidently handle any volume of cars within a given space, keeping in mind construction costs and the environmental impact of the garage. And drivers can enjoy the fact that they don’t need to spend time looking for parking and rest assured their cars are safely stored within a reliable system. It could be considered a win for everyone.

End Notes

1Shoup, Donald. “The High Cost of Minimum Parking Requirements.” Parking: Issues and Policies. Transport and Sustainability. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2018.

2Larson, William. “New Estimates of Value of Land of the United States.” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 3 April 2015. Web. 9 Nov. 2018.

3Schwartz, Samuel I. “The Garage of the Future Must Be Green.” Parking Magazine. March 2009. Web. 9 Nov. 2018.

4System Cost. FATA Automation. 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2018.a

Kathy Price-Robinson is an award-winning housing and construction writer. Her series on home remodeling ran 12 years in the Los Angeles Times. She has profiled more than 500 projects and developed more than 100 continuing education courses.


Westfalia Technologies, Inc. Westfalia’s parking solution is paving the way for innovation in the automated parking industry. By capitalizing on existing core competencies in warehouse automation and materials handling, its parking solutions specialize in cutting-edge, time-tested, fully automated parking systems for businesses, cities and municipalities, hotels, and residential properties.


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Originally published in Architectural Record